History: The Coelacanth is one of the most unique animals you’ll ever come across. Thought to have been extinct for 66 million years, it reappeared in 1938 to the surprise of the world. To this day, most people still don’t even know it exists, yet it’s an important example of the many mysteries within our world. What if I told you in the world of craft soda, there’s something out there that’s basically the equivalent of the Coelacanth? What if I told you there’s a soda out there that barely clung to life throughout the late 20th century, but is being reintroduced? What if I told you its creators knew literally nothing about soda in 2013 when they had the idea to bring it back? All of this is true. It’s called IronPort, and it’s the entire reason the Northern Utah-based Bandit Beverages exists. The company’s manager, Cameron Green, explains, “We wanted to find a way for those who haven’t tried this ‘cult’ soda a chance to, and give a chance to those people from the 50’s 60’s etc. a chance to have a soda they probably haven’t seen since they were kids or teens.” IronPort is rumored to still be a favorite in the Mountain West region of America, especially Utah and Idaho, according to Green. Unless you’re from around there, you’ve likely never heard of it.
Listen, the soda might as well be called ???. There’s a lot of mystery behind it. I’ve heard it called root beer combined with cream soda. I’ve heard it called root beer with Caribbean spices. You won’t find much information online. Is it still popular anywhere? Is it mixture of two sodas? Is it a flavor? Is it a style? Will it cure that thing I caught in a South American club last month? We asked some of these questions to Bandit Beverages, the only producer of bottled IronPort we can find. And even they won’t budge. “Can’t answer that without saying too much,” Green says with a coy smile. (I only assume this because he attached a 🙂 at the end, the kind of smiley face that girls text dudes to let them know something good is happening that night. You know what I’m talking about.) The most we could get out of them is that they’re trying to keep it “as close to the original” as possible and that “IronPort is the flavor, just the same as grape is a flavor, etc.” The one snag that may raise eyebrows to craft soda lovers is that Bandit Beverages makes their IronPort with high fructose corn syrup as opposed to cane sugar. “Since we were a young company we were trying to keep costs down, we were basically being cheap, which was a big mistake,” Green adds. Bandit Beverages acknowledged to us that they are currently in the process of switching all four of their sodas to pure cane sugar. We couldn’t resist the mystery. This should be an experience.
Where to get: Bandit Beverages sells IronPort directly via the company’s website. As of now, you won’t find it anywhere else, so you might as well snatch it up.
Nose: Bubblegum; spices; something akin to the smell of an orange freeze.
Taste: Bubblegum; orange; nutmeg; vanilla; creaminess. On first taste, this is a bit puzzling. IronPort certainly tastes like its own category. It’s sweeter and creamier than most sodas. If you drink a lot of higher-end soda, you’ll notice it’s a bit syrupy. This is because of the high fructose corn syrup used instead of cane sugar. The most prominent flavors that come through after a few sips include bubblegum and orange. This tastes more like a bubblegum cream soda infused with orange than a spiced root beer. That said, this doesn’t taste like an orange cream soda. It tastes like creamy bubblegum infused with floral orange and vanilla. Not the traditional orange soda flavor profile, but much softer. There’s definitely a nice creaminess to this and there are some additional flavorings in here that impart an orange flavor, perhaps spices. Some of those could include allspice, nutmeg, and/or cloves. As you can tell, this is hard to place. One of our team members said they even tasted some rose hips in there. There’s also definitely vanilla. That likely explains the creaminess. Bottom line: Smooth, sweet bubblegum cream with notes of soft orange, vanilla, and maybe some spices.
Finish: Creamy, yet slightly bitter orange.
Rating: Even after an entire bottle, IronPort remains mostly a mystery to us. Closer to a cream soda than root beer; this is in its own category. It’s not a variation. It’s a flavor in itself. There’s a creamy bubblegum body with notes of aromatic orange, yet I wouldn’t label this as being even close to an orange cream soda. There’s some sort of spice influence. Perhaps some nutmeg. Definitely vanilla. Maybe even some cinnamon. These are impossible to place in absolute terms, but something is causing that orange flavor. IronPort is very smooth with a nice creaminess. One area it lacks in is mouth feel. Bandit Beverages elected to use high fructose corn syrup and it leaves a syrupy taste at times. The company has said themselves they plan on switching to cane sugar in the near future. Once that move is made, I think IronPort’s flavor will greatly improve. Cane sugar provides a crisp sweetness as opposed to the thickness you taste with corn syrup. Like a majority of women, I may never understand IronPort. But its elusiveness, its mysterious standing in the world of craft soda, is something that should appeal to any soda connoisseur. Bandit Beverages, while a young company, has made a veteran move to resurrect an old favorite of which many haven’t heard. It’s nostalgic, yet abstract; classic, yet foreign; familiar, yet so peculiar. This is one you’ll want to put a check mark next to on your soda resume.